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October 31, 2014

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las vegas 51s:

Mayor Goodman on 51s in downtown: ‘Baseball staying there would be terrific’

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Christopher DeVargas

Baseball fans fill the stands at Cashman Field during the opening game for the Las Vegas 51’s against the Colorado Springs Sky Sox Friday April 12, 2013.

Las Vegas 51s Sold to Summerlin Las Vegas Baseball Club

Investor Steve Mack speaks to reporters during a news conference at Cashman Field after a deal was finalized to buy the Las Vegas 51s on Monday, May 13, 2013. Summerlin Las Vegas Baseball Club LLC, a joint venture of the Howard Hughes Corp. and Play Ball Owners Group — including investors Mack, Bart Wear and Chris Kaempfer — purchased the 51s and plans to move the franchise to a new stadium in Summerlin. Launch slideshow »

It’s been about three weeks since new owners purchased the Las Vegas 51s with plans of building a new stadium for the Triple-A baseball team in Summerlin, abandoning their downtown location.

The proposal from Summerlin Las Vegas Baseball Club LLC calls for an 8,000-9,000 seat, state-of-the-art stadium on 16 to 20 acres of land near Red Rock Resort at Charleston Boulevard and the 215 Beltway. It’s being labeled as a family-friendly facility complete with player and fan amenities lacking at Cashman Field.

Still, there have been some vocal opponents of the move. Those who live in Henderson say driving to Summerlin isn’t attractive. And there’s others who like having the team downtown.

That’s how Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman feels. She’s in favor of new owners renovating Cashman Field or rebuilding the stadium in its current location.

“Since this has become more of a discussionable item in the public, we have had quite a few longtime ticket holders calling up and saying, 'We love having our baseball down in the heart of the city,'” Goodman said last week. “And if you look around the country, they are moving more and more arenas into the hearts of the cities, not the suburbs. So, there is an interest of the public and resident public to keep (the stadium) where it is.”

Even if Cashman Field were upgraded to include the basic player amenities it lacks — the batting cage is outdoors in the parking lot and the weight room is so small the team issues players memberships to a local health club — the stadium still would be located in a struggling area of downtown that team officials have previously said was a key reason for wanting to move.

While parts of downtown are flourishing in redevelopment, the transformation ends a few blocks before the stadium. The area starting at the U.S. 95 overpass in downtown and heading north on Las Vegas Boulevard to Cashman Field has seen upgrades with the Neon Museum and Las Vegas National History Museum, but the area is still considered an eyesore by some.

And that’s just the front part of Cashman Field. The back part, on streets such as Washington Avenue and Bonanza Road, is one of Southern Nevada’s worst neighborhoods.

A story published Tuesday by The Wall Street Journal documented Cashman Field’s many shortcomings, including its location: “It is nestled along a row of abandoned lots and boarded-up storefronts 5 miles north of the Las Vegas Strip,” the story read.

The ownership group, a venture of the Howard Hughes Corporation and Play Ball Owners Group — including investors Steve Mack, Bart Wear and Chris Kaempfer — bought the team because of their desire to construct a new, state-of-the-art stadium in Summerlin as part of a more than $400 million mini-village already in the works. Howard Hughes owns the land the stadium would be built on; they say it’s valued at $40 million.

The village is planned to include high-end retail and restaurants. The estimated $60 million stadium project, which officials plan to ask for public support in helping finance, would be a nice attraction to the village project that will be great with or without baseball.

Team officials have heard those asking to keep the team downtown but have previously been consistent on desires to move the team. Kevin Orrock, president of the Howard Hughes Corporation/Summerlin, issued a statement to the Sun on Tuesday talking about the progress of a new stadium. It didn’t address the idea of staying downtown.

“As new owners of the Las Vegas 51s, we are just beginning to assess what is in the best interest of the team and the community as it relates to minor league baseball in Southern Nevada,” Orrock said. “That will include working with the city, county, the league and the (Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority).

“Summerlin will play a significant role in that process due to our long-standing community support and strong family orientation … which is an underpinning of our national pastime.”

But Goodman feels the national pastime could thrive downtown, joining other entities already enjoying success in the changing area.

“We have had so much action there with the whole resurgence, especially of the core area,” she said. “When you go from Las Vegas Boulevard passing Fremont Street, and you go under the 95 there, you have the National History Museum, you have the brand new Neon Museum and you have the (Mormon) fort. Across the street you have the old Reed Whipple Cultural Center, which now houses the Shakespeare company.

“You have a real sense of some cultural, athletic and civic meeting. You have a real core area to develop. Baseball staying there would be terrific, but not with the current facility they have.”

The team has eight seasons remaining on a 10-year lease with the LVCVA, which operates the stadium. A new stadium could be built in time for the 2015 season.

In the meantime, the shortcomings of outdated Cashman Field, which opened in 1983 and is the fourth-oldest out of 30 Triple-A facilities, continues to be documented. The 51s are the top affiliate for the New York Mets, giving reporters from the New York market reasons to write about the team.

The Wall Street Journal story was anything but complimentary. It asked why the Mets were stuck out West with Las Vegas as its Triple-A team. In 2008, when Las Vegas was affiliated with the Los Angeles Dodgers — the most popular big-league team in Las Vegas — a player agreement wasn’t renewed because of what Cashman Field lacked.

A new facility in Summerlin would surely have all of the bells and whistles, for the players and fans.

“Should we be successful in our efforts to bring the team to a new facility in Summerlin, the new stadium will be accessible to fans from across the valley and will ensure a positive experience for all,” Orrock said in the statement.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21.

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  1. Cashman field is a piece of crap, and it's location has precluded me from going there to watch live baseball. Don't like downtown, have never liked downtown, and refuse to go "downtown". The location in Summerlin, near Red Rock Resort, is perfect. Hope baseball ends up there.

  2. Maybe Tony Hsieh and Zappos will refurbish Cashman Field to complement his downtown development plan.

    Thanks for your vision Tony.

  3. Nothing like going to a baseball game (in a crappy stadium) and hoping that you do not get shot or robbed on the way out. It is time that it moves out of the ghetto...

    You know the stadium is in trouble when even the workers have given up hope.

  4. Build the stadium whereever you want. But without a dime of taxpayer money.

    Howard Hughes Corp, Kaempfer and Mack have enough money that they don't need ours. Police are underfunded, public employees are being furloughed, and they want taxpayer money for their "urban village"? Nonsense.

  5. Wow, what a bunch of bigots. Doubt any of you have been there.

    I've lived downtown for a couple of years. Don't see what you small minded people do.

  6. It's a minor league baseball team! Crime is everywhere, including the people's republic of summerlin. People go to minor league games because it doesn't cost & arm & a leg. When did it become ok for private business to ask for public money & get it? I would like to put pay water fountains on the strip, can you give me 3 mil to make it happen. I wait for your reply.

  7. The baseball team belongs in downtown where we already have a stadium and an authentic urban village. Can't we all just appreciate something real in a valley full of fakes and imitations?

    Whether you like downtown or not, that's where the team is and has been. If you can't support it there, you really just don't care about it.

    Besides..how many more outdoor "urban" malls is there room for? Rejoice in the fact that at least ,with all of it's faults, downtown is unique and real.

  8. Refurbishing Cashman would be great, but the problem remains access. Like every other event venue in Las Vegas (Thomas & Mack, Silverbowl) traffic is controlled by our lousy traffic signal control system that allows roadway backups and gridlock. Getting to Cashman is painful. Events with large numbers of spectators need adequate traffic control.